Chesapeake Energy Corp. shareholders were met by lockdown security Friday as they entered the northwest Oklahoma City campus for the company's annual meeting.
A 6-foot-tall fence with black mesh encircled the main campus between Western Avenue, NW 63 and Classen Boulevard. Each entrance was blocked by a barricade, Chesapeake security and Oklahoma City police officers.
“There have been other shareholders meetings that were significantly impacted by activists,” Chesapeake spokesman Michael Kehs said. “Our first priority was to look after the safety of all our guests and employees. We wanted to make sure it was orderly.”
Kehs said there were no security issues Friday.
“It was a wonderful day,” he said. “It was beautiful weather and a good, constructive meeting.”
Shareholder David Ridenour said he was surprised by the calm tone at the meeting.
“Frankly it was a lot more sedate than I was anticipating based on all the press coverage,” he said. “We've been to a lot of shareholder meetings this year, probably 15 or 16. In a lot of them there are those folks who show up and take over the meeting. They are radical. They won't stop talking and don't talk in a respectful fashion.
“I don't think that's particularly productive. They don't do their cause any good and don't really get answers to their questions by screaming at the CEO.”
At Friday's meeting, shareholders were directed to a building in the center of the campus, while reporters were sequestered in a different building along Western. The media parking lot was fenced in, separated from the rest of campus.
Shareholders were required to check all electronic devices — including cellphones — before entering the auditorium.
Recording devices were banned in the media room as well, and Chesapeake spokesman Jim Gipson said the company did not record the meeting.
Shareholders watched the meeting from a 222-seat, lime green auditorium. A few empty seats were scattered throughout the room, and about 20 people stood along the back wall. Attendees said about 100 people watched the meeting from an overflow room.
The crowd was calm and polite throughout the meeting.
Most applauded when CEO Aubrey McClendon entered the room.
Much softer applause followed when dissident stockholders and institutional investor representatives criticized the company and its leadership.
Several stockholders attending the meeting said they were there to support McClendon and the company.
“I know they're in debt, but if they'd leave them alone, they would be OK,” said Brownie Browne, a retired vice president of a wholesale hardware and automotive supply business in Clinton. McClendon has “done a lot for the state with royalty payments, drilling wells and sales tax payments. If gas was $5, they wouldn't be questioning anything.”
Hugh Martin, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force, has owned Chesapeake stock since the company became publicly traded in 1993.
“We're not selling our stock. We're going to wait it out,” he said.
The stock price has tumbled 46 percent over the past year, but it was up 51 cents, or 2.9 percent on Friday, closing at $18.36 a share.
“You can have a loss on paper, but it's written in stone if you sell,” Martin said.
Charles and Susie Swart of Pawnee paid $50 a share for their stock. They said they felt better about the company after hearing McClendon speak Friday.
“I've got faith in it,” Charles Swart said.
When stockholders left the meeting, they were presented with a Chesapeake canvas bag that contained various Chesapeake-branded items: three caps, a drinking container, golf balls, playing cards, dice, magnets, a flashlight and golf towel.
CONTRIBUTING: Staff writer Randy Ellis, who attended the meeting as a shareholder, and business writer Paul Monies